The Department of Justice announced today that it has entered into a consent decree with Wilson County, North Carolina, that, if approved by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, will resolve the department’s complaint alleging retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended. The complaint alleges that Wilson County Emergency Communications (WCEC) engaged in unlawful retaliation when it fired an employee, Jennifer Riddle, after she disclosed to supervisors that she had been sexually harassed while on the job.
Riddle was hired as a telecommunicator trainee for WCEC in 2017. Soon after she began working there, Riddle was sexually harassed by the agency’s assistant director. Riddle reported the harassment to multiple supervisors, and WCEC investigated. After concluding that Riddle’s complaints were valid, the County began the process of firing the assistant director, though he resigned before he was formally fired. Soon after the assistant director’s departure, Riddle began experiencing hostility from her supervisor and co-workers, culminating in a transfer. When she disclosed to the supervisors on her new shift that she had previously been sexually harassed by the assistant director and that WCEC failed to effectively deal with her harasser, the agency fired her.
“This lawsuit and settlement send a clear message that the department stands with the brave employees who oppose unlawful discrimination in the workplace, and that we will vigorously oppose any employer that attempts to use retaliation as a means to suppress an employee’s civil rights,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “With this consent decree, Wilson County has committed to improving the workplace for all of its employees by implementing enhanced anti-discrimination training, policies and investigative procedures.”
Under the terms of the consent decree, Wilson County will develop and submit to the United States for approval revised discrimination and retaliation policies, investigation procedures for complaints of discrimination, and trainings that will apply county-wide. The consent decree further requires Wilson County to pay Riddle $100,000 in compensatory damages and back pay.
The enforcement of Title VII and other federal employment discrimination laws is a top priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division and its work is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt.
The case was brought by Trial Attorneys Christopher Woolley and Vendarryl Jenkins of the Civil Rights Division’s Employment Litigation Section.